CBD oil refers to cannabidiol, one of over a hundred different compounds known as cannabinoids. Because of its name and the implied connection to cannabis, some people are wary of CBD – but it’s important to distinguish it from cannabis and THC, the main psychoactive compound of marijuana.
CBD oil is usually extracted from hemp, a cousin plant to marijuana, and it does not share marijuana’s psychoactive effects. CBD is also found in marijuana, yet it’s typically extracted from its less-controversial counterpart.
Nevertheless, the legality surrounding hemp and CBD is confusing. While available in all 50 states as a main component in medical marijuana, with various restrictions in place from state to state, the federal government still classifies CBD the same as it does marijuana. However, it rarely enforces that classification – and for all intents and purposes, ‘pure’ CBD is legal. Regardless, research firmly confirms that CBD oil does not share the same ability as marijuana to trigger a ‘high’.
What CBD oil does boast, however, is a potentially wide-ranging list of effects that may help patients with physical and mental ailments. But it’s important to differentiate reality from hype.
How Does CBD Oil Work?
Cannabidiol enters the bloodstream through any one of several different methods, including oral ingestion, sublingual administration, topical application, inhalation, or injection.
Once in the bloodstream, it makes its way throughout the body, binding to various receptors connected to the body’s endocannabinoid system. This is a system linked to appetite, pain, mood, and memory. From there, it takes effect depending on the dosage used, the quality of the CBD, as well as the person’s susceptibility to the compound as per their genes, metabolism, stress levels during consumption, and other individual factors.
CBD-based medication and CBD supplements are not guaranteed to do as they describe. Like any other compound, many factors come into play in determining the efficacy of said compound in any one case. That being said, there is some research indicating that CBD has elicited enough of a response to outdo placebo drugs in a variety of crucial applications, most notably: childhood epilepsy and seizures, anxiety, and even chronic pain.
CBD and Epilepsy
CBD first showed promise in the treatment of epilepsy in animal models, and later showed promise in the treatment of epilepsy and seizure disorders primarily in children.
CBD has been used in studies aiming to treat Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. In three separate studies, CBD has proven superior to placebo. The use of cannabinoids in the potential treatment of seizures is much older than most would expect, with the earliest research dating back to 1843, when a physician in the Bengal Army observed the anti-seizure effects of Indian hemp in an infant with recurrent convulsive seizures. However, it is only very recently that cannabis-derived medicine has become a viable option for epilepsy sufferers.
CBD and Anxiety
There is less evidence regarding the use of CBD to treat generalized anxiety disorder, with some research pointing at CBD’s potential in treating the disorder due to the results of several animal studies.
Social anxiety disorder and PTSD, on the other hand, have had studies researching the effectiveness of CBD in the treatment of humans, with positive results. More research is needed to identify specific dosages, increase sample sizes, and determine the effectiveness of CBD in other forms of anxiety.
CBD and Chronic Pain
CBD may play a role in reducing inflammatory and neuropathic pain, in a study using an animal model utilizing rats. In this example, CBD was used to treat chronic pain caused by arthritis, through topical treatment. However, little to no research exists on CBD’s efficacy on the treatment of chronic pain in humans.
Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that animal models are often a strong first step in identifying the potential for treatments, and the mechanism through which CBD can affect inflammatory and neuropathic pain is being researched.
CBD and Addiction
A systematic review of existing evidence published in 2015 showed that preclinical studies have suggested CBD can be used in the treatment of substance use disorder, particularly for patients who are addicted to opioids, cocaine, and psychostimulants, as well as cannabis and tobacco.
Another study has shown that CBD may prove useful in increasing a person’s resistance to substance use disorders, potentially reducing the toxicity and addictiveness of drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine.
CBD and Heart Disease
Another potential benefit of CBD is a protective effect against heart disease, hypertension, and other human diseases often linked to oxidative stress and inflammation. Limited research on animal models shows the potential to reduce oxidative stress on the heart through in vivo treatment. If proven to effectively reduce oxidative stress in humans through a variety of randomized controlled trials, CBD could play a major role in the treatment of other diseases – but there’s a lot of research to do before anything of that magnitude could be confirmed.
Can CBD Be Abused?
As mentioned previously, CBD oils generally are not extracted from marijuana, and contain very low (if any) levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the main psychoactive ingredient found in cannabis. As such, CBD products do not cause a ‘high’, which is a series of euphoric symptoms associated with smoking and/or using weed.
A report compiled by the World Health Organization claims that CBD exhibits “no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential…”. Other studies further confirm this. In short, CBD oil cannot be abused in the sense that it does not pose a risk of drug dependence or addiction.
However, like any substance, it’s important to note that if it is used medically and elicits a positive response, then suddenly stopping can have some side effects. If the body and brain get used to CBD oil to deal with certain conditions, then any attempt to switch to a different medication or supplement should take into consideration that a weaning period is safer than suddenly quitting. This doesn’t have anything to do with addiction but is more so a part of how the body reacts to medication in general.
Because the FDA has only quite recently opened the possibility of further research into CBD’s medicinal effects, there’s still a lot to discover about this compound and its potential benefits and risks to patients with any variety of conditions. Even among conditions that have already been studied, such as anxiety disorders and heart disease, the consensus is that more research is needed.